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Tag:Jeff Pearlman
Posted on: October 14, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Payton's son doesn't hold grudge against Pearlman

PaytonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

With the new biography on Walter Payton, written by Jeff Pearlman, still generating controversy, the Chicago Tribune went to Payton’s son, Jarrett Payton, to talk about the newest NFL Network documentary on Payton.

And, of course, Pearlman’s book, which reported that Payton abused pain-killers, talked of suicide and had extramarital affairs.

But Payton doesn’t hold any ill will toward Pearlman.

"I don’t hold grudges against anybody, and I’m speaking from my heart," Payton told the newspaper. "Everybody has a job, to write or do whatever they do to the best of their ability. We all have to feed our families. So I understand that. It’s just hard for me to be 30 years old now and to have your life in a book or in the paper. Some of the stuff was true. Some of it wasn't.

"It’s hard because someone passed away and is not here to defend himself. But my family and I have gotten so much stronger through everything. We have to really thank the Bears fans here in Chicago because we’ve gotten so much love."

During a recent chat with CBSSports.com, Pearlman talked about writing a book of this nature, knowing that some of the revelations would
the life of Payton
upset the family.

“I always feel bad about it,” Pearlman said. “I feel worse about it when the book is about to come out. It all feels really hypothetical when you’re working on the book. It’s always a year or two away from coming out. It feels so far away. When the book is about to come out, you realize that real people are about to be hurt. They’re going to be sad, shocked, disillusioned. But your ultimate job is to write a definitive, all-encompassing biography about something. That’s the whole person. It’s not another ass-kiss to an athlete. Not a sports book but a life book. If it was about my dad, I’d be really hurt by that. But as a biogprapher, you’re sensitive to those feelings. You’d  be doing a huge disservice to the biographers.

"There are times in this process when you really question whether this is what you should be doing. It’s certainly not my goal to damage people or make people feel horrible. I always ask this of my wife: “Am I doing something that can be justified?”

Even with the controversy that was generated by an excerpt that ran in Sports Illustrated, the Payton book has received plenty of positive reviews by people who have the entire tome. And it's good to know that Jarrett Payton feels OK about it.

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Posted on: October 7, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 12:45 pm
 

Five questions (or more) with Jeff Pearlman

PaytonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Jeff Pearlman knows about controversy. He was the Sports Illustrated writer who penned the John Rocker piece in 1999 that will forever define the rest of the former Atlanta Braves pitcher’s life, and though Pearlman simply quoted what Rocker said and all his prejudices and racially-charged thoughts, Pearlman also took plenty of heat for the story.

But that story doesn’t define Pearlman. He’s a New York Times bestselling author (if you haven’t already, you should definitely check out Boys Will Be Boys, the story of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys and their amazing penchant for winning and partying), and he’s a well-known freelance writer with an always-interesting blog.

His current book, Sweetness: The Engimatic Life of Walter Payton hit bookshelves this week, and after a highly-charged excerpt appeared in Sports Illustrated, Pearlman has faced criticism that has surprised him, especially since most people who are bashing the book haven’t had the chance to read it.

We caught up Pearlman on Wednesday, and we talked about his reaction to the public’s reaction, whether the controversy will help sell books and how he continues to write the negative knowing that it will affect Payton’s family.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

1. CBSSports.com: Knowing how much time you put into the book and how long you spent on it, what did you think of the reaction to the excerpt? It’s only a few pages out of a huge book, but you’ve been in the middle of this huge controversy.

Jeff Pearlman: It was kind of hurtful. It’s funny. People are like “Of course he knew it was coming,” but I really didn't see it coming. Maybe I’m naïve. It was a blind side. The backlash was hurtful. I put a lot into this. You write books and inevitably over 460 pages, there will be little things that happen. There will be little misspellings. There will be small errors. It happens. I can accept all those things. But this was so charged. It reminded me of the Dixie Chicks when they spoke out about (President) Bush. It didn’t become what the Dixie Chicks said about Bush, but it was just about being mad at something. Nobody had read the book and people were furious. It was one excerpt from one chapter. I felt like I was drowning.

CBS: How did the excerpt get picked? Was it you working with your editor, or was it you saying, “This is what I want it.” Because I imagine this kind of publicity probably will help book sales.

Pearlman: Actually, I don’t (think it will help). SI picked the excerpt. They have the first rights. But I’ve written for them for years, and I love Sports Illustrated. The editor said, “We’re going to pick this,” and I said that was fine. I can’t be like, “How dare they?” It wasn’t my first choice. But I was OK with it. I feel like I’ve lost Chicago, and I’ve been working to try to win them back. There are still 49 other states and Canada, but Chicago is a good book-buying city and this was his home base. I think people decided early on, “Here’s this jerk trying to destroy Walter Payton.”

2. CBS: Do you think your John Rocker story led people to believe that? Because then they could just see that “Pearlman is just a jerk.”

Pearlman: I don’t think so, only because I haven’t heard it mentioned that much. I don’t think it’s been that big a factor.

3. CBS: Why Walter Payton? He’s had books written about him before. Why choose him?

Pearlman: I had finished a Roger Clemens biography, and it was the least favorite of the books I’ve written. I wanted to write about somebody completely different. You mentioned John Rocker before. I sort of have a reputation for being that guy who gravitates toward negative things. But Walter was different. He’s so iconic but so mysterious. I mean, no one even knew how he got his nickname. When he was eulogized at his funeral, they said he was 45 years old. He was actually 46. At the College Hall of Fame, when he talked about finishing fourth for the Heisman, he actually finished 14th.  When people talk about Walter Payton, they go to (his former wife) Connie. People don’t know this, but they weren’t together for the last 10 years of his life. That’s not a knock on Connie; that’s just the way it was. He was very mysterious.

CBS: Did you know this negative stuff going in?

Pearlman: I didn’t know anything about him. I would have been thrilled if he would have had no scars whatsoever. I found him so fascinating. He was easily the most interesting athlete I’ve written about.

4. CBS: When you’re writing this book, you must know how the family is going to feel when they read some of the negative stuff. How do you push yourself through that? How do you process that in your mind so you can keep writing?

Pearlman: I always feel bad about it. I feel worse about it when the book is about to come out. It all feels really hypothetical when you’re working on the book. It’s always a year or two away from coming out. It feels so far away. When the book is about to come out, you realize that real people are about to be hurt. They’re going to be sad, shocked, disillusioned. But your ultimate job is to write a definitive, all-encompassing biography about something. That’s the whole person. It’s not another ass-kiss to an athlete. Not a sports book but a life book. If it was about my dad, I’d be really hurt by that. But as a biogprapher, you’re sensitive to those feelings. You’d  be doing a huge disservice to the biographers.

There are times in this process when you really question whether this is what you should be doing. It’s certainly not my goal to damage people or make people feel horrible. I always ask this of my wife: “Am I doing something that can be justified?”

CBS: Do you think that once people read the book, they can kind of forget about the excerpt and about how angry they were?

Pearlman: I think people who read the book will. People who ignore it or will have have nothing to do with it, I can’t do anything about those people. I worked hard on this thing. I really think it’s a fair book.

5. CBS: So, what’s next for you? After working on this for almost three years, what do you do now?

Pearlman: I don’t really know. I promote this book for a couple weeks. I guess I have to find the next project. I’m pretty burnt out with this work and the immediate reaction to it. I’ve never felt this way after a book. I can barely lift my head off the ground. I have no idea.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Books we want to read

It's time for a biography on Ed Sabol and his son, Steve. (US Preswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With the controversy surrounding the new Walter Payton biography, written by Jeff Pearlman, I got to thinking about the other books we need to read but that haven’t been written yet. I’m not talking about a season in the life book of the 2010 Packers or the latest words written by Mike Ditka (at least five authored or co-authored by the Bears coaching icon), but about subjects we don’t really know and on topics we would love to explore.

For this Top Ten List with a Twist, I’m discounting what a publisher might say if he/she was presented with some of these ideas (namely, the idea that blah, blah, blah won’t sell or that nobody has ever heard of blah, blah, blah). Some of these ideas, no doubt, would work, and maybe, one day, you’ll see one of them on the shelf of your nearest book store in the cart of your Amazon.com page.

Without further ado, here are the Top Ten books we absolutely deserve to read.  

10. The inside story on the NFL lockout: Yeah, maybe many football fans wouldn’t care about a book like this, because they only wanted the work stoppage to end as soon as possible so they could continue to watch the game they love, but I bet it would be fascinating. What is the relationship between Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith really like? How were the compromises finally reached? Did Jerry Jones really tap his fists together and walk out of a negotiation session to make a point? For those  who reported and analyzed the entire ordeal, it would be a mind-churning look from behind the curtain.

9. Bill Belichick end-of-career autobiography: Although he almost always comes off completely uninteresting during his midweek and postgame press conferences -- hell, he eats his lunch during teleconference calls with the media! -- the recent NFL Network documentary showed that he’s an interesting dude. The fact he got a little emotional during a trip to the Meadowlands was almost shocking, and I’ve seen interviews with him before that are really, really good. If he let down his guard, like during that documentary, his autobiography would be a fascinating study of the best coach in football. There have been big-name authors who have written big-name books about Belichick, but when his career is over, I want him reflecting on the impact he’s made and the reason he did it all the first place.

8. A biography on Tom Brady’s hair: We’ve already had the obituary for Brady’s shorn locks. Next, we should have a book that tells the tale of the entire two-year history of the hair that helped Brady land that lucrative Uggs endorsement.

7. Sid Gillman biography: Gillman is the most important coach you might not remember. Unlike Paul Brown (who has a stadium named after him and a legacy in Cincinnati) or Vince Lombardi (who you might have heard a little something about) or Woody Hayes (a decent-enough coach at Ohio State) -- all of whom were Gillman contemporaries -- Gillman has fallen through the cracks of history. And considering, he’s the father of the modern passing offense, that’s a shame.

Rex and Rob Ryan (US Presswire)6. Rob/Rex Ryan quote book: This could even be made into one of those peel-a-page-every-day calendars, like the Jeff Foxworthy redneck gags or the best of the old Far Side comic strips. But if you like to laugh (or just shake your head), this book would be a big seller. You could have Rex talking about not wanting to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings or Rob discussing how Calvin Johnson would be the Cowboys No. 3 receiver behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. See what I mean? It’d be high hilarity.

5. Bryant McKinnie in the Blind Side, part II: Since McKinnie was the one to replace Michael Oher as the Ravens left tackle, McKinnie should have his own Michael Lewis-penned biography. I’m pretty sure McKinnie didn’t live in foster homes and on the streets before he was adopted, like Oher, but McKinnie has had struggles with his weight and he did (allegedly) spend $100,000 on a bar tab this offseason. It’s not as heartwarming as the Oher book, but a tome about McKinnie would be pretty fun.

4. The early struggles of black players: You know all about Jackie Robinson in major league baseball, but if I asked you who the broke the color barrier in the NFL, you probably wouldn’t have any idea. Hell, I read a long article about the NFL’s integration the other day, and I couldn’t tell you the guy’s name*. But this is an important -- and somewhat complicated -- history. Black players participated in pro football at the turn of the 20th century, and they also were part of teams in various professional leagues until the NFL stopped signing them in the early 1930s. It would be an interesting look at an era that, just like much of society, was decidedly unfair for anybody who wasn’t white.

*After blacks were excluded from the league in 1933, Kenny Washington was the one to break the barrier in 1946, one year before Robinson did it in baseball.

3. A Cam Newton investigation: Don’t we deserve to know who Newton’s bag man is or if there was a bag man at all? Not that it would make any difference in his pro career, but don’t you want to know if Newton’s father really demanded $180,000 from Mississippi State for Newton’s service? Maybe Auburn fans wouldn’t, but I certainly would.

2. NFL Films biography: People underestimate the importance of Ed and Steve Sabol. Proof of that was that it took so long for Ed to earn his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the NFL -- and the NFL fans -- owe them a huge debt of gratitude, because the way you watch football today might not be possible if NFL Films hadn’t been created on the backs of the Sabol’s in the 1960s. I want to know how it started, the obstacles they faced in the early years and the impact the company has made to this day. It’s a book the Sabol’s deserve to have written.

1. An investigation into the rise of CTE: There have been a few journalists (the Newark Star Ledger’s Jerry Izenberg and the New York Times’ Alan Schwarz are two who come to mind) who do fine work keeping watch on the NFL’s relationship and response to the rise of head injuries that continue to devastate retired players and keep us reminded about what a brutal game football is to those who play it for your enjoyment. But from the premature death of Steelers legend Mike Webster to the shock of what Chris Henry’s brain looked like during his autopsy, from the suicide of Dave Duerson to the continued work of those who track of the rise of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, this is a book that needs to be written. And the sooner, the better.

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Posted on: September 29, 2011 9:17 am
 

New book brings shocking Walter Payton news

There were some shocking revelations made in a new book about Walter Payton (AP).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s one of the most-anticipated sports books to hit the shelves in time for the holidays, but on Wednesday, Jeff Pearlman’s biography about Walter Payton -- titled Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton -- got much bigger publicity. It’s to be excerpted in this week’s Sports Illustrated, and to help hype the book, which drops Oct. 4, some of the scandalous news that emerges from it was released.

Like, for example, Payton abused pain-killing drugs during and after his career, contemplated suicide at some points of his life and maintained mistresses on the side of his marriage.

That last point created a potentially big problem at Payton’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony when his girlfriend insisted on attending despite the fact his wife was going to be there as well.

"The introduction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is supposed to be the greatest moment in his life," Ginny Quirk, Payton’s executive assistant, told Pearlman. "And in truth, it was probably the worst. Four full days, and Lita and Connie were like two ships passing in the night. If Connie was scheduled to come late, I'd make sure Lita was there early. If Connie was there early, Lita would be there late. I can't describe the horror of that trip."

In response to the excerpts of the book, the Bears released the following statement: "When we take the field each Sunday, we represent the great players like Walter who helped build the rich tradition of our organization. Nothing will change our feelings for a man we have the deepest respect for and miss having around Halas Hall to this day."

For Pearlman’s part, he says he set out to write about Walter Payton in full. Not just about the positives that you might know, but about the secrets you probably don’t.

“It hurts me that this will hurt his kids,” Pearlman told SI.com. “It really does because Jarrett and Brittney are wonderful, engaging, fun, caring people and they're really uplifting figures in the Chicago landscape ... That said, I set out to write a definitive biography -- period. When people would ask, 'Well, is this going to be positive?' I'd say, 'Not positive, not negative -- definitive.'"

The Payton family, via the Chicago Tribune, also released a statement: "Walter, like all of us, wasn't perfect. The challenges he faced were well known to those of us who loved and lived with him. He was a great father to Jarrett and Brittney and held a special place in the football world and the Chicago community. Recent disclosures -- some true, some untrue -- do not change this. I'm saddened that anyone would attempt to profit from these stories, many told by people with little credibility."

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com